Understanding the Secrets of Drawing the Neck
Drawing the neck can be quite challenging. It’s often difficult to identify any errors in your artwork. Fortunately, there is a methodical approach to drawing the neck that always yields great results. By understanding the bone structure and how muscles align with the bones, as well as studying real-life references, you can improve your neck drawings and make them less of a hassle.
In this step-by-step guide on how to draw the neck, we’ll explore the following approach:
To draw the neck, you need to:
- Understand the perspective of your drawing.
- Begin with a cylinder connected to the ribcage.
- Map the sternocleidomastoid and the Adam’s apple to the cylinder.
- Add the trapezius and clavicle sections.
If you’re eager to learn how to draw the neck, let’s dive into the step-by-step process.
It’s important to note that one of the challenges in mastering the steps mentioned above lies in dealing with the foreshortening effect on the sternocleidomastoid and clavicle bones. Foreshortening is dependent on perspective. For a more detailed understanding of perspective, you can refer to my tutorial on the subject.
How to Draw the Neck – Landmarks
General Shape of the Neck
The neck can be likened to a cylinder, with slight swellings on the sides caused by the sternocleidomastoid muscle, as well as a slight bulge in the front due to the Adam’s apple. At the top of the neck, there is the larynx (laryngeal prominence of the thyroid cartilage), which creates the Adam’s apple. Although both men and women have a larynx, it is more prominent in men.
Here are some key observations:
- The base of the neck is lower under the jaw in the front than at the back.
- The top of the neck slopes down from the back towards the jaw. This slope is parallel to the plane where the neck attaches to the body.
- The neck is shorter in the front and longer in the back. The trapezius muscle covers a large portion of the back and neck, contributing to this difference.
Additionally, the sternocleidomastoid muscles create a hollow space above the sternum. These muscles start at the sternum and clavicles, run up the sides of the neck, and end near the ears. You can feel them flexing when you lift your head while lying down.
To understand the attachment of the neck to the body, visualize it as a tree growing from the ground, with the muscles acting as its roots. This analogy, found in Vonderpoel’s anatomy book, provides a helpful description.
The neck follows the direction of the spine and has a curved shape due to the spinal vertebrae present in it. Male and female necks have general differences, with male necks being shorter, thicker, and rising almost vertically from the body, while female necks are usually longer, slender, and inclined forward.
Vonderpoel’s anatomy book is highly recommended if you wish to delve deeper into the subject.
Unveiling the Skeletal Structure of the Neck
To draw the neck accurately, it’s crucial to understand the skeleton beneath its surface. Simply approximating the ribcage with an oval shape and placing a cylinder on top may work for basic drawings, but if you desire to master the art of drawing the neck, you need more comprehensive knowledge.
While it’s true that the ribcage is larger than the neck and can be represented by an oval, the neck itself is a cylinder. So, how else can we describe the neck in order to improve our drawing skills?
Once you grasp the basic forms, pay special attention to angles and shapes. The neck is inclined forward, slanting on the body, and surrounded by clavicles in the front and scapulas in the back. The trapezius muscles map onto the scapulas and connect to the lateral sections of the clavicles, creating a half-cone structure around the neck.
Mastering the Mapping of Neck Muscles
Origin: Inner third of the clavicle and sternum
Insertion: Directly behind the ear
The sternocleidomastoid muscles connect to the base of the clavicle and the sternum. Regardless of the neck’s position, they remain anchored to their origin. You can utilize this connection to anchor your drawing since it remains constant. Between the sternocleidomastoid muscles, you can map the Adam’s apple.
Traps – Trapezius
Insertion: Acromion and spine of the scapula, lateral (outer) third of the clavicle
Origin: Occipital bone (base of skull in the back), ligamentum nuchae, and spinous processes of vertebrae
The trapezius muscles, also known as the traps, are extensive muscles that extend across the upper back. For in-depth details on drawing the back, you can refer to my tutorial on the subject.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Drawing the Neck
Let’s take a closer look at some of the neck drawings from various angles before moving on to the step-by-step construction.
- Study by Gvaat, focusing on the back of the neck – Trapezius detail.
- Neck construction studies by Gvaat.
- Study by Gvaat. Trapezius at 1, sternocleidomastoid at 2.
- Study by Gvaat. Sternocleidomastoid at 2 and trapezius at 1.
- Actual shapes of the neck – Michelangelo’s David. (Original photo credit: Igor Castañeda Ferreira). Traps in green, sternocleidomastoid in blue, and Adam’s apple in yellow.
Step-by-Step Construction of the Neck
- Begin by drawing the general shape of the neck, the trunk of the neck. As previously described, the shape slopes downward from the back to the front. The planes on top and bottom of the neck should have parallel slopes relative to the body and head, respectively.
- Next, add the sternocleidomastoid muscles. They originate from the sternum and push up through the neck before reaching behind the ears.
It’s important to note that the diagram provided is a generalization of neck shapes. Real necks have unique and organic forms, so this simplified representation allows us to grasp the underlying structure more easily. Take a look at Michelangelo’s David for a realistic depiction of how these muscles sit on the neck.
- Then, incorporate the Adam’s apple into the neck. It should be positioned closer to the top of the neck just below the jaw.
In the diagram above, two rods are added to represent the clavicles at the front of the body.
Here, a section of the sternocleidomastoid muscles is added, connecting to the clavicle. The remaining sternocleidomastoid muscles connect to the sternum. The trapezius muscles are depicted in green.
Color everything in with one color to focus on the overall form.
Finally, place the head on the neck. Note that the sternocleidomastoid muscle extends behind the ear, and the Adam’s apple is much closer to the head than the body.
Congratulations! You have now completed this tutorial on drawing the neck. It’s important to allocate your time between studying and practicing drawing. Armed with your newfound knowledge of human anatomy and neck drawing techniques, take some time to draw the neck on your own.
It’s time to unleash your artistic skills and bring necks to life!